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The Hill - Clock is Ticking for Congress to Fix Our Economy

Op-Ed

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Location: Washington, DC

By Rep. Tony Cárdenas

This week marks my 100th day in Congress. After working in state and local government and owning a small business myself, I am shocked at the lack of attention this Congress has paid to job creation and the needs of small business.

Every time I am back in my district, my constituents let me know that the economy is their number one concern. While unemployment has steadily decreased, it is still too high, particularly in Latino communities like my district. Far too many small business owners are shutting their doors and workers are being left with fewer opportunities to support their families and further their skills.

During my tenure on the Los Angeles City Council, I used my experience as a small business owner to help streamline and simplify the business tax system. By reducing the number of categories and the highest tax rates, reducing the tax burden on small businesses, the City of Los Angeles saw an increase in its revenue and moved the system to support innovation and investment. The Federal government can learn from this example and make strides towards bringing back businesses and creating jobs. However, we first need to get everyone back to the table and re-focus on jobs.

Just before the congressional recess, a Republican budget passed the House. Its priorities were simple: roll back critical investments in education, job training and other programs that get Americans back to work. As a member of the Budget Committee, I voted no and fought these cuts; cuts that would be in addition to sequestration and recent cuts to the critical support that middle class families and my constituents rely on to achieve the American Dream.

While we can all agree that we need to get our deficit in control, the key to getting our budget in order is not kicking our kids out of preschool and closing the door on job training programs, it's investing in the people of this nation and focusing on job creation. Until we get Americans back to work, our deficit will continue to grow uncontrollably.

That focus on investing in our future is part of why I applaud President Obama's 2014 budget proposal for including $50 billion in funding for roads, bridges and other public infrastructure projects, $1 billion to enhance the manufacturing sector and an additional $1 billion for higher education. These targeted investments will get people back to work and do more to address the long term deficit than spending cuts alone.

The president's budget follows an example set by millions of American families who are fighting to overcome the challenges of this economy. The narrative painted by my Republican colleagues is partially correct; those families are sitting around their kitchen tables and cutting costs, but this is only half the story. These families, along with main street small business owners, are also investing in themselves because they know that is the only way to improve. Parents work and sacrifice to make sure their children succeed in school. Unemployed Americans who want to work set aside money to obtain the training they need to compete in a modern global market, even as the Republican budget devastates these programs. Small business owners invest today for tomorrow's market by upgrading equipment, training their workers, and identifying new areas for growth.

Congress must not just talk about half the story but follow the path laid out by the people who sent us here. Our focus should be on supporting investments made by working families and small business owners to improve their situation. We need to prioritize funding for education, job training, and support small business growth.

Rather than depending on cuts alone and keeping the American people in a cycle of fiscal uncertainty, Democrats and Republicans should come together to support a balanced solution. The House and Senate have now passed their own budgets and the president has released his proposal. This is the perfect opportunity for my colleagues to come to the bargaining table and negotiate. It's time for a conference where we can sit face to face around our own kitchen table here in Washington and really talk about how we will set our country on a path to success.

I hope that by the next recess we can all go back to our districts and talk about how we invested in America and refocused on putting people back to work in good, middle class jobs. The clock is ticking for Congress to fix our economy.

Cárdenas represents California's 29th Congressional District and servies on the House Budget Committee.


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